Typical setup for a USB DAC system
A typical setup for a USB DAC system is shown above. We have two Firewire disks for our library (one is for backup). We use Firewire over USB drives because we don't want to overload the USB link. The output of the DAC is fed to a preamplifier or integrated amplifier and then to the amp and speakers. There are several suggestions for full remote control located on the setup pages for Macintosh and Windows.
We set the playback software such as iTunes to read your CD's and write the error free tracks to the Firewire disks. The playback software then has all the information including the CD titles, names of songs, plus the actual tracks on the disks for use in playing these back.
Most playback software also allows you to watch downloaded movies as well as stream music from internet radio stations.
To make sure we don't loose our Library of ripped CD's on our Firewire disk, we make a backup and put that on a different drive. There is some really good Sync software as well as back up programs available to make sure you never loose any of the material. It will be saved off on the backup disk exactly as it is on the main disk. I basically sync the two drives after I rip allot of CD's to my main library. Then I turn the back up drive off, thereby evading some kind of power or other issue.
The computer does need to have internet access to get song names and such. But it does not need a specified email address of any kind.
You can use computers such as the Apple MAC Mini as a complete entertainment system with DVD, DVR/Cable, music, radio and all sorts of stuff like this:
Basically use the DVI connector (HDMI convertor can be used if your TV does not support DVI) out of the Mac Mini into a large screen LCD or Plasma TV or Monitor. This becomes your monitor and you can see DVD's and Cable output (via Elgato) as well as iTunes and other applications on the large screen. This places your Mac Mini as the central place for all your music, video's and other entertainment options.
I always tell all my customers that buying all that extra stuff for home theater is a waste of money. Given any budget, the quality of a two channel system is always going to be higher than a home theater system because there are fewer things to buy, leaving you with more money to put towards less items. There is a huge trend out there for people to buy home theater receivers for a stereo system because they want to be able to have the potential of “upgrading” to a home theater in the future. The reality is that no one wants to wire for rear speakers and you just spent a chunk of money on a component which you will never use as it was intended.
Instead I say go two channel audio and video for the best results. With a computer in the mix, you can build yourself a high quality two channel home theater system with iTunes access to music, movies, and even the ability to watch and record live cable TV!